Vol. 68 No. 1 (2020)

Greece, the Netherlands and (the) Ukraine: A Corpus-Based Study of Definite Article Use with Country Names

Published 2020-01-02


This study investigates the grammatical behavior of English country names based on corpus linguistic evidence. An overview of the basic patterns of definite article use with country names as commonly described in English reference grammars and of the morphological structures of English country names is presented. Against this backdrop, the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) is used to explore which (groups of) country names occur more or less frequently with a definite article. The data analysis reveals that virtually all of the English country names examined are, to some extent, used in the syntactic position following a definite article. It is shown that certain grammatical constructions call for the use of a definite article in connection with country names. However, the morphology of the country names also has a strong influence on how often they are used with a definite article. Furthermore, it is argued that the minority of English country names that do not fit this morphological pattern may differ because they derive from other place name types that generally take a definite article.


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